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The United States endorses the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online, formally joining those working together under the rubric of the Call to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting the Internet.  The terrible terrorist attacks of March 15, 2019 against houses of worship in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the deplorable depiction in real time of those shootings graphically demonstrated the ability of terrorist and violent extremist online content to incite violence.  For the United States, countering domestic violent extremism — including racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism — is a compelling priority.  We are committed to working closely with international partners who share our values and norms to prevent and counter all forms of terrorism.

We applaud language in the Christchurch Call emphasizing the importance of respecting human rights and the rule of law, including the protection of freedom of expression.  In participating in the Christchurch Call, the United States will not take steps that would violate the freedoms of speech and association protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, nor violate people’s reasonable expectations of privacy.  We will continue to collaborate with other governments and online service providers on a voluntary basis to support their efforts to counter terrorist content on the Internet.  The position of the United States remains unchanged and consistent with our long-standing ideals: We encourage technology companies to develop and enforce terms of service and community standards that forbid the use of their platforms for terrorist and violent extremist purposes.  We continue to believe that promoting credible alternative narratives to expose false terrorist and violent extremist narratives is an important means of countering terrorist and violent extremist content online.  Put simply, we remain of the view that the preferred way to defeat terrorist and violent extremist speech is more speech: to counter it with credible, alternative narratives that promote rather than restrict free expression.

To that end, we highlight the importance of ensuring that governments do not abuse the Call as justification for restrictions on internationally protected human rights, including the freedoms of individuals to seek, receive, and impart information through their media of choice.   We note the importance of technology companies developing transparent criteria and robust safeguards to ensure the application of any terms of service is consistent with fundamental freedoms.  The urgent need to counter the exploitation of the Internet by terrorists and violent extremists to promote violence should not overshadow the equally compelling need to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, for people everywhere.

We welcome the important momentum that the Christchurch Call has generated and look forward to continuing our work with government, technology sector partners, civil society, and other stakeholders to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting the Internet while protecting its openness, interoperability, reliability, and security.

 

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future